Married women and solo travel: The baggage of the tag

Be careful what you pack into your suitcase, as the length, quality and pace of your travel are all immediately affected by the weight of your baggage.

This was a priceless travelling tip I picked up after a few trips in which my baggage weighed me down. After a few times huffing and panting after lugging around kilos after kilos of ‘everything essential’ on different trips, my definition of ‘essential’ things for a trip underwent an overhaul.

Yet, nothing could prepare me for what was to come!

I learnt a few years later, that there was one other thing, which had without notice crept into my baggage, adding kilos that I had not accounted for at all while packing.

This stealthy entry was my newly acquired tag of a married woman! I say stealthy because none of the guards I had stationed at the gates of my cliched character of a ‘strong, independent woman’, were able to catch this tag as it slid in- unwanted and unexpected- into my baggage.

As if the tag itself wasn’t enough, it brought with itself stigma and guilt for travelling solo after marriage.

No point in my 10-month old marriage made me realize I was married more than the point of announcing to the world that I was travelling solo after marriage.

Concern, attention (unwanted), and curiosity poured in from all the most unexpected quarters! My friends, colleagues and the group of other young solo travelers I was travelling with (aged between 25-35 years) expressed their surprise at this decision. I was asked more than once, “Why?”

It was shocking to be asked why by not uncles and aunties in their 60s, but those my age, educated and all from the same societal and economic background as myself! This meant that the stigma was so deep-seated that we had adopted it, without even realizing it. Like most other stigmas.

While a part of me wanted to go into an all-explanatory monologue about what had prompted me to this decision, another part of me could simply gawk in return at their surprise and mutter, “Why not?!”

Yes, I had my reasons to go for this solo trip. Some personal, some not. The top most reason from the former list was my long-held desire to go for my first international trip on my own money (I funded it partially) and to go for it solo; and the foremost reason from the latter list was fighting these list of notions about women and solo travel.

Being already widely held and propagated, I will leave the list of these notions to be elaborated on by ScoopWhoop or some such other pop content website. However, one point that I must make is that I understood after this trip that if this list is long for women and solo travel, it is some ten times longer and more detailed for married women and solo travel.

We need to do away with these notions, and let people breathe. Marriage is not and should not be associated with these societal constructs and boundaries. You can fulfill your duties to one another, be in love, and still go take a hike in the woods, by yourself, every once in a while. It’s okay. Really.

For my part, I realized that our compatibility and bonding was in fact, strengthened, and not weakened by such a trip- we both got some breathing space, I had new experiences to be happy about and therefore more happiness to share with him, and there was the ever-comforting presence of the fact that much has indeed, not changed, after marriage.

And that can be a big relief after the free horror-movie people show you, intentionally or not, as your life after marriage.

Surprisingly, all the people who matter to me, were all chill with the idea and execution of this trip- understanding and appreciating this as my desire. This probably, was the best part about my trip- reinforcing my theory that perhaps stigmas are infact free floating virus-like generalizations, adopted in practice by a few, but thought to be practiced by an imaginary society by all.

But that’s a post for another day. 

For now, I’ll leave you with this- marriage has no bearing on solo travel, for either man or woman. So breathe, let breathe and travel. It’s ok.

How the Guru reads Our Eyes

There are no words to describe the beauty of look. Yet this post is to describe what looking into my Guru’s eyes made me feel. Gu- meaning darkness and Ru- meaning fire, or light.. So the fire/ light that takes us away from darkness, is Guru. He is our first real experience of Shiv. Maybe the last too, I do not know. But first, I can vouch for. It is said that the grace of Shiv, gets us our Guru, and the grace of our Guru, gets us Shiv…  The following is an account of what looking into my Guru’s eyes made me feel at a time when I needed to feel understood, but had no words to explain myself. Prior to this, and for the longest time, I had shied away from looking into His eyes, because like a mirror, they had shown me ugly truths about myself, ones that I was not willing to accept at all. And so I avoided His eyes. And then one day, when I was on the brink of leaving, He was talking to all of us present there… individually. And then my turn came, and He looked at me. As if room temperature water was slowly poured on a block of ice, I cracked with that look, broke into a tired smile which was beyond my control, and shook my head. I then had a conversation with Him which had no words, and was beyond words. And yet, after that one look in my eyes, He knew what I was planning to do next. He said, “Ye toh aaj kuch bhayanak karne wali thi…” I knew then, that He knew what I had planned as my next course of action, I didn’t need to tell Him for Him to know. This was one of my first glimpses and lessons on the Guru-Shishya relationship…

Getting back, so the feasibility and sensibility of a plan becomes painfully apparent when words are lent to it. His words then made me realize.. that it was indeed ‘bhayanak’ what I was planning. I was planning to leave. And He had held me back… I wondered then, how He knew… Then and there, I felt a connection with Him which would later only get deeper with time. But right then, I was elated to bits. For having been understood and accepted, for having my existence acknowledged. I do think every soul needs a lot of both the latter and the former.

I quickly noted down all that I felt then… this is how it goes:

“He has the most knowing, yet kindest eyes I have ever seen… how much was I missing out on when I refused to look into His eyes because of my fear of being judged for all that He would read in them? He reads them like I read books. He reads them so much deeper than I read books, actually. I read the lines to know them, He looks at them and they come to Him…they come rushing to Him- the lines in my eyes. His eyes are seats of understanding and acceptance. And both, without ever making me feel obliged. Knowing and judging go hand in hand, I believed…but knowing and judging are divorced for Him. So priceless, right? In a world that is constantly making me feel obliged for all that it has given me, and sometimes even for things it has not given me, I find Him, one who does not charge me, or blame me, or make me feel small even after giving me the greatest gift I have ever received- acceptance.

While every pair of eyes look into mine and see through them- sometimes blatantly missing out the pain that is apparent- His eyes reveal to me pains that I myself was unconscious of. His eyes smiled at mine a smile, which was not a twinkle of mischief to make me feel laughed at, but which had just enough humour to not make me feel criticized/ judged…just enough humour to reinstate my faith in myself, making my shortcomings seem smaller…reducing the size of hurdles I thought I could not cross.

How then could I not smile? How could I still hold on to all that tension?

For reading in my eyes answers which I have not given…this one is for you.”